Wednesday 24 September 2014

Javier Camarena at Rosenblatt Recitals

Javier Camarena - photo Ana Kuri
Javier Camarena - photo Ana Kuri
Mozart, Bellini, Rossini, Gounod, Donizetti, Tosti, Crescenzo, Gastalson, Sorozabal, Guastavino, Grever; Javier Camarena, Enrico Maria Cacciari; Rosenblatt Recitals at the Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 23 2014
Star rating: 5.0

Thrilling and beautiful tone from Mexican tenor in UK debut, deservingly receiving a standing oveation

The 15th season of Rosenblatt Recitals opened at the Wigmore Hall on 23 September 2014 with something of a change of plan. The scheduled tenor, Stephen Costello, was ill and at short notice the Mexican lyric tenor Javier Camarena flew over from Zurich to make his UK debut. Camarena and pianist Enrico Maria Cacciari performed a programme of arias by Mozart, Bellini, Rossini, Gounod and Donizetti with songs by Crescenzo, Tosti, Gastaldon, Sorozabal, Guastavino, Grever and Lara. The arias included items from Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Rossini's La Cenerentola, Gounod's Romeo et Juliette and Donizetti's La Fille du regiment.

Camarena and Cacciari started with Belmonte's aria Ich baue ganz from Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. Camarena sang with a lovely lyric tenor voice, displaying a fine depth of tone and evenness of production throughout the whole range. His passagework was wonderfully fluent with a nice clarity of phrasing. But in addition to great lyric beauty, Camarena brought a nice passion and intensity to his performance.

Javier Camarena at the Wigmore Hall - photo Jonathan Rose
Javier Camarena at the Wigmore Hall
photo Jonathan Rose
 Next came Tebaldo's cavatina and cabaletta E serbato questo acciaro... L'amo tanto from Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. The cavatina was full of well filled phrases, whilst the cabaletta was both stylish and vibrant, coming to a fabulous climax. Though restricted to a rather limited repertoire of gesture, Camarena had a very charming stage presence and made use of it to clearly enchant and charm.

Ramiro's aria Si, ritrovarla io giuro from Rossini's La Cenerentola showed Camarena to by a highly technical stylist, as he produced wonderful even and fast passagework which functioned in a highly musical manner within the context of the aria. And he also showed a willingness to float the voice, it wasn't all thrilling climaxes.

With Ah, leve-toi soleil from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette we moved into French. Whilst the climaxes were full and Italianate, the quiet moments were highly stylish. Camarena finished with the show piece aria, Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fete from Donizetti's La fille du Regiment with its array of repeated top C's. These clearly held out no terrors for Camarena, who was technically secure, tireless and wonderfully charming.

For the second half we moved to song, with a selection mixing Italian song from the popular tenor repertoire with Spanish and Mexican items. Whilst the Italian items were not the most imaginative of choices, they were all beautifully and disarmingly performed.  

Rondine al nido by Vincenzo de Crescenzo (1875 - 1964) started with a nicely intimate tone, and a strong narrative sense, before we reached the thrilling climax. Camarena followed this with two songs by Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846 - 1916), deceptively simple pieces which require care, attention and strong technique to bring off as well as Camarena did. Ideale had some beautifully intimate moments, whilst L'ultima canzone was confiding and not over self-indulgent. The same was true of Musica proibita by Stanislao Gastaldon (1861 - 1939).

Camareno followed this with an aria from a zarzuela, La tabernera del puerto written in 1936 by the Spanish composer Pablo Sorozabal (1897 - 1988). No puede ser was interestingly varied and certainly not as straight-forward as might have been expected for zarzuela and Camareno brought the piece vividly to life.

Carlos Guastavino (1912 - 2000) was an Argentinian composer who used a lot of Argentinian folk-music in his music. La rosa y el sauce had a beautifully exotic feel to it, but also a wistful sense of melancholy and Camarena gave a subtle performance with no major climaxes. Maria Grever (1885 - 1951) was the first Mexican female musician to become a successful composer. Despedida was a highly emotional song with a thrilling climax, but also intelligently phrased.

Granada by the Mexican composer Agustin Lara (1897 - 1970) has become a well known staple of the tenor repertoire. Camarena gave us showmanship but also took the song seriously as well.

Camarena sang all items from memory, and throughout he displayed a finesse which went far beyond simple loveliness of tone. He was clearly not content just to display the beauty of his voice, but brought a fine intelligence to phrasing and light and shade. At its most powerful, the voice was wonderfully vibrant and at times certainly raised the roof but he never forced or pushed. He was finely supported by the piano playing of Enrico Maria Cacciari.

The audience reaction was stupendous and Camarena and Cacciari gave us three encores, Rossini's La Danza, Core n'grato by Salvatore Cardillo (1874--1947) and Nessun dorma from Puccini's Turandot.

After a debut like this I certainly look forward to hearing Camarena again in the UK soon!
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